Labor 'reneges' on inspection subsidy
THE operator of the Casino meatworks has accused the Federal Government of reneging on a deal to meet its share of the costs of meat inspection and certification services for the meat-processing sector.
Northern Co-Operative Meat Company general manager Gary Burridge wrote to customers in June advising an extra charge of $3.20 per head slaughtered at the facility would apply to cover the costs of Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) inspections.
According to Mr Burridge, the cost increase was a result of the government removing a subsidy and forcing full cost recovery of AQIS costs on the sector, which he said was contrary to an earlier agreement which recognised government should meet some of the cost and would review the arrangement.
“The rebate was put in place via a productivity commission review that suggested a 40% government contribution to the program was a legitimate cost of government,” Mr Burridge said.
“But the present Labor Government has refuted that there was ever an agreement with industry to review the costs.”
Mr Burridge said the government has also imposed an additional layer of regulatory requirements on the sector by requiring export meat processing facilities to employ food safety meat inspectors in addition to the veterinary and other inspectors already employed by the company.
“Industry has approached the government for a contribution to this new layer of regulation that did not exist in the past,” Mr Burridge said. “But the government has to date resisted making a contribution, however we remain hopeful of an agreed outcome.”
Mr Burridge’s concerns have drawn support from Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin.
In a letter to Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig on behalf of the co-op, Ms Saffin sought a funds package to assist the meatworks and other meat processors to meet the costs of employing food safety meat inspectors.
“I understand that the agreement struck with industry in general did not factor in this additional cost and it is one that will create a burden that industry cannot bear,” Ms Saffin said.
“The domestic meat industry that slaughters our cattle here, thus value adding, requires additional assistance in general and I would say it is timely to do so now.”
What is AQIS?
AQIS is the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).
It’s an agency of the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
It maintains quarantine control at Australian borders.
It also inspects and certifies agricultural products for import and export.